For years, the world has become accustomed to Nike’s soccer ads being reliably excellent. Over two decades ago, 1996 marked the brand’s first audacious interpretation of the sport with “Good vs. Evil,” a film for the Euro 96 tournament that reinvented the genre. The Wieden+Kennedy spot was legitimately epic and pitted Nike’s European stars against a team of monsters. It was so different—and so good—that Denmark banned it from theaters, and FIFA, soccer’s governing body, lobbed criticism at the work.
From that point, the blueprint for this cinematic approach was set as the brand, and others, use this longer-form technique to celebrate the world’s most popular sport. In a nod to the original from 1996, Nike released a new film, “Awaken the Phantom,” connected to the launch of its latest Phantom soccer shoe, created by Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam.
The story of a mysterious soccer player and urban legend, leveraging some of the brand’s current top stars, is equal parts fish tale and a game of telephone as it quickly takes on a life of its own.
In the opening, a nervous defender says that he “never believed in monsters … until that night,” while a groundskeeper with an eye-patch says that he saw it with his “own eye.” From there, a beast of some kind is rocketed into a stadium, and rumors of what actually happened on the field begin to take shape.
A food cart worker says that the phantom made the ball vanish. French teenagers say that they heard the beast wasn’t even human.
Then it starts to get really strange with Nigerian singer Wizkid—sitting with fellow musicians Tiwa Savage and Mutay, and Arsenal star Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang—implying that the monster had three legs. A cab passenger then ups the ante by saying it had four legs. Not to be outdone, a chef, holding an octopus, doubles that count: “Eight legs.”
Reeling it back in, we see that the player, at first, is Barcelona’s Phillipe Coutinho, then transforms on the field to Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne and U.S. star Mallory Pugh. Brazilian legend Ronaldinho Gaúcho, A.C. Milan head coach Gennaro Gattuso and elegant, recently retired Italian star Andrea Pirlo pop in with a bit of levity.
The film—directed by Matthew Vaughn, best known for his work on Kingsmen—includes a quick cameo from Neymar and is two-and-a-half minutes of frenetic magic from the brand, especially as European leagues begin their seasons this weekend.
Agency: Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam
Executive Creative Directors: Eric Quennoy, Mark Bernath
Creative Directors: Craig Williams, Evgeny Primachenko
Art Director: Riccardo Rachello
Copywriter: Jake Barnes
Head of Broadcast Production: Joe Togneri
Broadcast Producer: Elissa Singstock
Assistant Producer: Sanne Van Hattum
Planning Director: Stephane Missier
Communications Planner: Hillary Heath
Group Account Directors: Kathryn Addo, Alyssa Ramsey
Account Director: Amber Martin
Account Manager: Fulvio Itagiba
Head of Design” Joe Burrin
Studio Director: Lizzie Murray
Designer: Gustav von Platen
Project Managers: Loes Poot, Saskia Van Zwieten
Business Affairs: Emilie Douqué, Belen Jerez
Production Company: Black Label Productions
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Director of Photography: George Richmond
Producer: Tim Wild
Executive Producer: Dom Freeman
Editing Company: The Quarry
Editor: Paul Watts
Editor Assistant: Patrick Walsh
Producer: Tor Adams
Audio Post: Grand Central Studios
Sound Designer/Mixer: Raja Sehgal
Music: Justice Remix
Artist / Title: Justice/MassiveMusic
Music Company: MassiveMusic
Post Production: The Mill
3D Lead Artist: Adam Droy
Jadheer T P
Sendil Kumar J
2D Lead Artists: Gianluca Di Marco, Dan Adams
2D Artists: Carl Norton, Dan Adams, Declan Andrews, Fergal Hendrick
Georgina Ford, James Pratt, Olivia O’Neil, Peter Hodsman
Rebecca Clay, Sole Martin, Theajo Dharan
Tracking Supervisor: Senthil Murugan Balasundaram
Matte Painting: Henrik Holmberg, Cameron Johnson, Can Y. Sanalan, Jiyoung Lee
Design: Kenny Addeh
Colorist: James Bamford
Color Assistant: Thomas Mangham
Executive Producers: Gemma Humphries, Alex Fitzgerald
Producer: Sean Francis
Line Producer: Supreetha Murthy
Production Coordinator: Dan Crozier
Shoot Supervisors: Barnes Barnsley, Adam Droy